What We Think About #saveourchildren
I love being a part of the counter-trafficking movement. I have been working with survivors in some capacity since fall of 2008 - advocating, freedom fighting, crying and cheering for over 10 years.
The road has been tough. The first grant proposal I wrote when I moved back to the States was not only rejected (no money), but we received a letter from the granting foundation that essentially stated (paraphrased from memory), “Thank you for your grant request. At this time, we do not believe there is human trafficking in our community enough to merit investment in this work. Your proposal created a lively dialogue with our board around the subject. Thanks and good luck in your endeavors.” Now, here we are, 10 years later and the hashtags are numerous pointing people to the injustice of human trafficking.
The thing is, are these hashtags and the information with them “correct?” Helpful? I'm glad the cause is gaining traction, but I am also fearful. I am fearful misinformation will not only harm the movement now, diverting attention to the everyday reality of human trafficking in our own backyards, but also harm the overall legitimacy of the movement. In addition, I’m worried about diverted resources. Some of these hashtags are pointing people to a select few organizations which might or might not want to be aligned with the statements being made. Many of these hashtags aren’t created by the organization, but by individuals who then link them to a certain group. Almost all of the organizations being promoted fight trafficking internationally, but might not be operating domestically or locally in a community hearing its promotion. The likely unintended effect is the diversion of advocates, time and dollars - out of a community engaging this problem locally.
I want to be clear here, I lived in Cambodia for years and am extremely passionate about kids and exploited adults being rescued in that country and every country. I am passionate about countless organizations and world changers I know personally and by reputation and want their work to be funded, championed, and encouraged. My worry is, hashtags and un-researched advocacy leads people to think they’re joining the fight, but the survivor in their neighborhood is being served by a local team needing your heart, passion, and generosity to keep going (especially during COVID-19).
Here’s the deal. One of our key team mantras is, “Revelation requires response.” We are SO GLAD you want to align your voice and passion for those who need someone shouting for them, but do research, pause before “sharing’ and think about what you want your voice to say. Do you want to champion ‘rescues’ internationally, email us for recommendations. Do you want to champion ‘victim services’ internationally? Domestically? Memphis? Miami? Email us for recommendations. Do you want to champion CHANGE - legislation, changing the narrative in your community? Email us.
Individuals sharing about human trafficking in Memphis know this:
A sweet thirteen year old girl’s trafficker was in court in Memphis last week.
28% of our referrals for this year for victim services are 15 and 16 year olds.
We have two safe houses in this city serving survivors in need of food, money, and more. (Plus, there are two other safe houses run by partners in Memphis.)
We currently have over 35 survivors being served by our team in the Midsouth area.
While there is still plenty of work to do, Tennessee currently ranks number one in the United States for our counter trafficking law.
If we want tomorrow to look better, we have to empower survivors, equip communities, and change systems.
Rachel Haaga is a Memphis native, founder and Executive Director for Restore Corps. Restore Corps is the regional point of contact for survivor services for the 21 counties of West Tennessee. End Slavery Tennessee is the contact for middle Tennessee and Grow Free (CCAHT) is the point of contact for East Tennessee. These three ogranzations, partnered together as TASA (Tennessee Antislavery Alliance), walk alongside survivors of human trafficking in Tennessee. They welcome volunteers and donations and need the help of their local communities. Please, take a moment and consider volunteering or donating to these organizations. Take the first step in creating real change.